Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tillman questions abound

Harry Reid is often quoted as saying that when the administration says something, you should believe just the opposite. Pat Tillman's death shocked the nation because of his celebrity and his sacrifice. Unfortunately, much of the information surrounding his death has been proven incorrect. Now the administration is claiming executive priviledge in not releaseing some requested doucments. What more are they hiding? Things only get more bizarre with this administration.

Tillman questions abound
07.14.07 -- 5:16PMBy Steve Benen
In recent years, Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan has gone from being tragic to suspicious to scandalous. As you probably know, Tillman, a former NFL star who retired from football to become an Army Ranger, was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 and his death was quickly seized upon for public relations purposes. In fact, the Army said Tillman was killed by enemy gunfire when he led his team to help another group of ambushed soldiers.

That wasn't true -- Tillman died as a result of friendly fire. The Pentagon knew better, but was reluctant to say so. In March, we learned, "Just seven days after Pat Tillman's death, a top general warned there were strong indications that it was friendly fire and President Bush might embarrass himself if he said the NFL star-turned-soldier died in an ambush.... The memo reinforces suspicions that the Pentagon was more concerned with sparing officials from embarrassment than with leveling with Tillman's family."

What's more, it took five weeks for Tillman's family to learn about the incident, in part because, "within hours of Pat Tillman's death, the Army went into information-lockdown mode, cutting off phone and Internet connections at a base in Afghanistan, posting guards on a wounded platoon mate, and ordering a sergeant to burn Tillman's uniform."

In April, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the issue, and heard U.S. Army Spc. Bryan O'Neal explain that he was told by a higher-up to conceal information. It led the committee to request materials from the White House and the Pentagon describing how and when the administration learned the circumstances of Tillman's death.

Yesterday, the Bush gang delivered its answer: No.

The White House has refused to give Congress documents about the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman, with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding saying that certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting "implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests."

Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), the leading members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, objected to the refusal yesterday in letters to the White House and the Defense Department.

Waxman and Davis are clearly annoyed by the developments. They've scheduled another hearing for Aug. 1, after which, they'll probably consider subpoenas. (In their letter to Fred Fielding, Waxman and Davis said, "We would like to avoid a confrontation over these documents, if possible, but cannot accept the deficient production the White House has provided to the Committee.")

Stay tuned.

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